Monday, September 27, 2010

How To Be Alone: Reviews!

In the comments to my last post, someone posted a link to the video "How to Be Alone". One thing I liked about the video was that it talked about doing things alone as a skill anyone can build using small steps (the video suggests starting in the bathroom-- we've all peed alone, haven't we?). I agree that the ability to do things alone is an important one, and not just for single people. I'm not always great at it myself, but I'm hoping that with time, I'll improve. So I wanted to open up a discussion of ridin' solo with my personal reviews of some standard "alone" activities, most of which were mentioned in the video. I'm using two ratings: Enjoyability, where a 10 would be enlightenment or "I'M GOING TO DISNEYLAND!" and a 1 would be watching Youtube videos buffer. And awkwardness/anxiety, where a 1 would be gazing at a sleeping kitten, and a 10 would be nearing a panic attack. So, onward!

Reading a book in the park.

Enjoyability: 8
A/A: 2
I have a pretty bad memory for books, which might be one of the reasons I feel compelled to write about them. But parks are another story. Being alone is no big deal here, since I find both reading and being outside can make me feel content. Sometimes low-stress activities are the best. Just be sure to pick an engrossing book and a good park for your first time.

Enjoyability: 6
A/A: 4
Going to movies alone was what convinced me I was the only person in America who saw "Hustle and Flow". It's not as scary as it may seem, because it's dark and you can get absorbed in the movie. The downside is that you don't have anyone to discuss the movie with. If you haven't yet done this, try seeing an early showing of an independent film. The theater will be pretty empty, and there will be other people there by themselves (probably because their friends, like yours, didn't want to see yet another plotless wonder).

Enjoyability: 5
A/A: 5
The final frontier to some isn't that frightening once you've done it a few times. I mostly just find eating alone to be boring, and it's something I would do out of necessity (ie, I'm out alone and hungry) than for fun. First time? Some restaurants are more amenable to people eating alone than others. Try a somewhat casual place that isn't very crowded. If you were in San Francisco, I would suggest Ananda Fuara at dinner, where I would always see quite a few people eating alone.

Concert, aka "Show".

Enjoyability: 7, but depends on how good the show is.
A/A: 6
Awkwardness and boredom during set breaks is the issue here, as well as lack of post-show discussion. But it would be a shame to miss a good show just because no one else is feeling it. Once I went to a show with a friend, and we were standing near a woman who was by herself. During the set breaks, she would take out a small flashlight and read a book about music. I still remember that because whenever I see someone alone and rolling it with, I always think that person's pretty badass. If you're alone and feel awkward, you never know, maybe people are wishing they had your courage.

Going Out Dancing.
Enjoyability: ???
A/A: 9
This one was in the video, but I've never actually done it. And I can't say I want to. Dance events being a common place to get hit on is just one reason I'd be uncomfortable with this. Sure, if you're dancing in a crowd, no one will know you're alone. But I can't get over a few things that to me, just seem totally unfun alone. Going to a bar also falls into this category.

Enjoyability: 6-10
A/A: 3-7
I know this is a tricky one for a lot of people. Traveling alone has its advantages, but it can also get tedious and there can be safety issues. It will encompass many different situations that you will have to do alone, about which your comfort level will vary. While I've never traveled totally alone for more than 2 days, I've spent some time on trips by myself. My main concern is what to do after dark. During the day, there are always museums and outdoor stuff, which often I enjoy solo. But at night, there's all the stuff I don't like to do alone: Restaurants, bars, dancing, etc. What might help with this is to do advance research for nightlife I wouldn't mind doing, like special movies or museums that are open late (I love me some museums!). There's also the possibility of meeting up with other people in the place you travel to. I've met AVENites in New York and Portland, and I have college friends in some random places. If you're not asexual, there's always Couchsurfers, who according to the website, can act as tour guides even if you don't want to crash on random couches. Also, maybe a friend of a friend could offer to show you around. However...then you wouldn't really be alone anymore.

So what are your reviews? Any awesome alone activities we should try? Or any difficult ones that you want to work up to?


Burn said...

Here are two completely different things I will do either alone or with friends- doesn't make a difference to me:

Enjoyability: Depends on whether you actually like these activities
A/A: 4
When you're moving, it's socially acceptable to be alone. Plus, you can go at your own pace, without worrying about whether your friend is too fast/too slow. You can stop (or not) whenever you want to look at the scenery. You can bring a book for resting times, or just enjoy nature. I like to go on grueling death marches, unlike most people I know, so hiking alone is good for me. Downside: Backpacking alone can lead to creepy nighttime situations with glowing critter eyes or rustling branches. If you're on a lesser-used trail you have to prepare for emergencies.

Enjoyability: Do you like singing?
A/A: 10
I'm terrified of public speaking, but somehow that all goes away when it comes to singing. If you go alone, there's no embarrassment factor of your friends finding out you secretly love Britney Spears. On the other hand, there's no moral support. But singing alone at a karaoke bar, if you've got the confidence to go onstage, is a real icebreaker with others at the bar. (In my experience.) If you've never done it before, practicing a non-common song (no Journey) in the car or shower opens up more conversational possibilities. Downsides: I think very few people would not be having a panic attack at the thought of this as a solo, sober activity.

Along those veins, if you hike alone in a remote area as I often do, it's a good time to break out the singing at the top of your lungs that you couldn't get away with at a karaoke bar. ;)

Janet S. said...

Love the theme of being alone! Once I traveled across the UK for 7 days all by myself. While in London, my enjoyability was 10 and the anxiety about 4. When I went to Cornwall, enjoyability was 5-7 and anxiety was 6-8. I really enjoy the thought of developing coping mechanisms for being alone and feeling content.

Nowadays, one of my favorite activities to do alone is going to the gym. It gets the endorphins flowing and really isn't an activity that requires much interaction or talking. Everyone is focused on their own workout and so should you!

Rebecca said...

Just curious, why is couchsurfers not for asexuals?

Lanafactrix said...

I was in NYC by myself a few months ago--I was with a church group, but I did all the touristy things alone. The first night I went to a show, which was neat, and the second night I pretty much just chilled in the hotel room. I'm much more of a "do stuff by day, relax by night" traveler, which helps with the awkward. I did note that the Metropolitan Museum of Art is open until 9 on weekends, which is pretty awesome.

Anonymous said...

Trippy, I recently came across that video on another blog when someone gave me a link to an unrelated post. I think the video was produced superbly and really enjoy the aesthetics, I guess, and how the music works into it.

It's different to think of going places, like wandering in beautiful woods with traintracks, without any thought of talking about it with anybody, or sharing the experience in any way, doing it only for your own enjoyment and enrichment. Doing neat things, having a neat house, whether or not anybody will ever know or see. I often do things by myself, but most times would welcome somebody else along. It's way different to feel comfortable doing things alone, vs. not minding if anyone else is there or not. And buying yourself a bouquet for the table? Never thought of it. But, why not?

I think she equates 'lonely' and 'alone' at the end, though:
"...but lonely is a freedom that breaths easy and weightless and lonely is healing if you make it."
I happen to define 'lonely' as a bad feeling, but I think being alone could be free and healing.

Also the first sentence, "newly alone" implies people are either dating somebody or alone. 'Newly lonely' works. And, after all, the poem is applicable to anybody's individual life, no matter what their social network is like.


Ily said...

Ooh, I'm psyched for all these comments! Keep 'em coming!

Burn-- I like hiking alone too, for the same reasons. Although I'm extremely slow. It's nice to be able to, say, look at a banana slug for 5 minutes if I want without frustrating anyone else.

Janet-- Thanks! Going to the gym was one of the examples in the video. Usually for exercise, I ride my bike, which I guess is a solitary activity as well.

Rebecca-- Wow, yeah, I didn't write that clearly. Couchsurfers is definitely for anyone. I was trying to say that if you couldn't meet people through AVEN, you could try Couchsurfers. Although sexual allies are welcome at AVEN meetups least, they're welcome at the meetups I I guess being asexual isn't that relevant.

Lanafactrix-- NY, NY! Love that city. Last time I was there, I wasn't alone, but I ended up relaxing at night because my feet were always killing me from walking around all day. Actually that seems to be a theme for me...

Nathan-- You bring up a really interesting point, I think. Whenever I'm doing something by myself, I always want to tell other people about things that I experience. The soul of a true blogger, I guess. For whatever reason, just seeing or doing it myself doesn't seem like enough, but I wish it was. And yeah, I felt this way before Facebook and Twitter became popular.

Anonymous said...

traveling alone is not that difficult: plan ahead and accept that you can't do certain things at night. However, youth hostels are full of people traveling alone who can band together for a night out on the town.

Anonymous said...

Wanted to pass this along to you, though you have likely already seen it --

A newspaper commentary on the new US sex study had link to this article from February in Elle, I was surprised I hadn't read it before. Definitely interesting.


Mage said...

I've never understood why people are so afraid of eating at restaurants alone. I rarely eat at restaurants with other people! I find that it can be highly enjoyable to read a book and eat at a restaurant.

Playing an instrument:
Enjoyability: 7
A/A: 2
Depending on how much time you have spent playing an instrument, awkwardness and enjoyability will change. Anyway, playing an instrument alone is very relaxing and can give you the opportunity to see what kind of music you like to create. When I'm jamming with other people I always feel tempted to impress them somehow and as a result will fail to play anything interesting or learn new techniques.

Anonymous said...

Hiya ILY,
In a way being alone (or feeling alone) is a state of mind. Psychically being alone to someone looking at you can say if you are or you aren't - its and obvious state you either are alone or not, if that makes sense?

The feeling of being alone is more subjective. For some people they can be in a room full of people (not physically alone) but feel alone or be hanging out with friends and feel as if they haven't got a single one in the world. You can be surrounded by people but unless you make some kind of connection you can still feel isolated and disconnected. As with most things in life, there's the situation you're in and you're own perceptive of it - which can make you view it as better or worse. Maybe this is why people who are alone may not feel lonely. Or people who haven't ever had a deep connection with another person and never had a friend can not care and be happy, even when society tells them alonedom is unfulfilling, unsatisfying and the whole notion that it should remain a temporary state. In movies and the media people who are alone are seen as weird- hermits that are strange and others that are scary. The alone ones talk to themselves in supermarket isles and on the bus, while the single are desperate losers holding out for a date.

I think this video is saying if you change the way you view your state of aloneness you can be happy in that state. It's all about looking from a new perceptive.

Back to the actual topic of your post.

It's interesting to note how with asexuals (romantic and aromatic) seems to not be worried with "alonedom". They would like nothing more than losing themselves in books or drawing. While sexuals are the ones who fear it and enjoy their time going to parties and having a big group of friends to socialize with on the weekend.

I know people that are like that, that need to be with someone all the time, that when they're alone even just for a day or two they get super depressed. There's the people that always have friends around them and when they not physically there they have their phone glued to their ear or are texting like mad. I know another friend that can't stay single. She would get out of a relationship and would be in another one within a fortnight. Like being single was the worst state to be in she couldn't last even a month without a partner. Maybe like most of society seems to think, being young and single means you are a lesser person and not 'whole'. Don't know what that makes me if she has had more relationships than I can remember and I haven't had one LOL.

I think it's interesting also that some people can be alone psychically but can't be alone in silence, they have to have the radio or TV on in the background or have their mp3 player on 24/7. They can be alone but seem to be scared of silence I've heard of some that can't even sleep without there earplugs in.

people sitting in the quiet embracing that nothingness are the ones that come up with new inventions and cures because it lets their brain think. Some of these kids probably haven't walked outside and heard birds sing and embraced nature in years because they need to have music in everywhere they go.

Anonymous said...


Being alone forces you to take risks and live outside your comfort zone. At school you make a group of friends and that's who you sit with and hang out with at lunch. (you may say hello to other kids in class but you stay with your clique. But if one day you lose you're friends and are forced out of that group and have to sit alone at lunch.maybe a person from another group will see you and introduce you to their group, It's as if you can't make any new friends (or interact with another group/clique) unless you're alone and friendless. She touched on this in the youtube video with sitting alone on a park bench, being alone can help you meet people. For example you might sit alone on a bus to work everyday and another person sits alone to go to work everyday and then you start talking one day and the everyday you take again and the before you know it your friends.

It's interesting if you're the token cat lady you're seen as alone even when you live in a house full of cats, don't animals count?

Being with a friend can be good if you need an alibi for a murder case but being alone isn't so bad either :)

P.S I was the one who linked you to that video- it's kind of cool that in a small way I contributed to this blog post :)